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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Chilean newspaper El Mercurio de Valparaíso is set on fire during protests in South American country



The building that houses Chilean newspaper El Mercurio de Valparaíso was set on fire in the midst of protests that have left a total 11 dead in the South American country as of Oct. 21.

Demonstrators set fire to the interior of the first floor of the historic building after breaking down the large front door on the night of Oct. 19, as Clarín reported, citing what a security guard told a local television station. Workers were all successfully evacuated from the building, it added.

Photos of the interior and exterior of the building are published in the Oct. 21 edition of El Mercurio de Valparaíso. They show charred and broken furniture and parts of the building's infrastructure. According to the paper, protesters wearing hoods destroyed offices on the first and second floor after setting the fire. It added that old printing presses and furniture were destroyed.

The conservative publication was founded in 1827 and is the oldest newspaper in circulation in the country.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called the “burning and looting” of El Mercurio a “serious attack on freedom of the press.”

“We also demand guarantees so that the Chilean press does not become a target of violence,” said Christopher Barnes, IAPA president, and Roberto Rock of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

Protests began on Oct. 14 after plans were announced to raise public transportation prices; however, the demonstrations have grown as a rejection of income inequality in the South American country. The proposed hike in prices has since been cancelled.

The military was sent to quell demonstrations, which was the first time tanks were seen in the streets since the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

A state of emergency and curfew have been declared in multiple cities, including Valparaíso.

Five bodies were found inside a garment factory that had been set on fire in a Santiago suburb and another three people were killed in a fire in a supermarket, according to the BBC.



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